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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

452               The Loom of Language
He regarded this as a task of the utmost importance, and carried it out
with particular care Notably modem in this context is a shrewd guess
Leibniz suggests that metaphorical extension has expanded the field of
reference of prepositions, all of which originally had a spatial signifi-
cance Thus we give them a chronological value, when we say between
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in the future, before 1789,
etc
The projects of Dalgarno and Willans had this in common with
others put forward during the eighteenth and the first half of the nine-
teenth century They started from a preconceived logical system with-
out reference to living speech As late as 1858 a committee report of the
French Societe Internationale de Lmgmstique denounced the design of
an international auxiliary built of bricks taken from natural languages
The reason given was that all natural languages, classical and modern,
dead and living, are embedded in cultural levels which modern man
had left behind him A language "clear, simple, easy, rational, logical,
philosophical, rich, harmonious^ and elastic enough to cater for all the
needs of future progress" must also be a language made out of whole
cloth
The vogue of a priori languages conceived in these terms is easy to
understand Language-planning was cradled by the needs of a scholar-
caste cut off from the common aspirations of ordinary people, without
the guidance of a systematic science of comparative linguistics Inevi-
tably the movement initiated by Dalgarno and Wilkins shared the fate
of proposals for number reform put forward by Alexandrian mathe-
maticians from Archimedes to Diophantus Proposals for an interna-
tional language with any prospect of success must emerge from the
experience of ordinary men and women, like the Hindu number-
system which revolutionized mathematics after the eclipse of Alexan-
drian culture
Still it is not fair to say that the efforts of Dalgarno, Wilkins, or
Leibniz were fruitless It may well be true that international reform of
scientific nomenclature initiated by the Systerna Naturae of Linnaeus
was catalysed by controversy which his more ambitious predecessor
provoked The movement which came to a focus in the Sy sterna Naturae
encouraged revision of chemical terminology with results which its
author could not have foreseen It created an international vocabulary
of Latin and Greek (p 250) roots In a sense, though unwittingly,
revision of chemical terminology realized Wilkins's dream of a real
character Modem chemistry has a vocabulary of ideographic and